Strategies for Securing Strong Letters of Recommendation for Physician Assistant Programs

how to choose a program interview tips pre-pa Apr 16, 2024
PA interview


When applying to physician assistant (PA) programs, securing strong letters of recommendation is a critical aspect of presenting a compelling application. Admissions committees rely on these letters to gain insights into an applicant's character, work ethic, and potential as a future PA. A well-crafted letter of recommendation can significantly enhance an applicant's chances of acceptance, while a generic or lackluster letter may weaken the overall application. In this article, we will explore effective strategies for obtaining strong letters of recommendation that will impress PA program admissions committees.


Why Are Letters of Recommendation Important? 

Letters of recommendation provide a unique perspective on an applicant's qualifications and character, beyond what can be conveyed through grades and test scores. They offer valuable insights into an applicant's clinical skills, interpersonal abilities, and dedication to patient care. Strong letters of recommendation can help applicants stand out from the competition and demonstrate to admissions committees that they are well-suited for the rigorous demands of a PA program.


Choose the Right Recommenders

Selecting the right individuals to write your letters of recommendation is crucial. Aim to choose professors and supervisors who know you well and can speak to your academic abilities, clinical experiences, and personal qualities. Ideal recommenders may include professors, healthcare professionals you have worked with, supervisors from volunteer experiences, or physicians you have shadowed. Ensure that each recommender can provide a unique and detailed perspective on your qualifications.


Build Strong Relationships with Recommenders

Before requesting a letter of recommendation, it is essential to build strong and meaningful relationships with your potential recommenders. Engage actively in your courses, clinical experiences, and volunteer work, and seek opportunities to work closely with your potential recommenders. By demonstrating dedication, professionalism, and a genuine interest in their fields, you can ensure that your recommenders have a positive and comprehensive view of your abilities.


Request Letters in Advance

Give your recommenders ample time to write thoughtful and well-crafted letters. Ideally, request letters of recommendation at least two to three months before the application deadline. Providing recommenders with sufficient notice allows them to dedicate time to composing detailed letters that effectively support your application.


Provide Relevant Information and Context

When requesting a letter of recommendation, provide your recommenders with pertinent information about the PA programs you are applying to, your academic and extracurricular accomplishments, and your reasons for pursuing a career as a physician assistant. Additionally, share any specific experiences or qualities you would like them to highlight in their letters. This information will enable your recommenders to tailor their letters to align with the values and requirements of the PA programs you are applying to.


Prepare a Recommender's Packet

Consider preparing a recommenders' packet that includes all the necessary information for writing a strong letter of recommendation. This packet may include a summary of your accomplishments, a copy of your resume or CV, a transcript (if applicable), and any specific prompts or guidelines provided by the PA programs. Providing this information can make the letter-writing process more efficient for your recommenders and ensure they have all the details needed to write a comprehensive letter.


Follow Up with Gentle Reminders

After requesting letters of recommendation, follow up with gentle reminders as the deadline approaches. Some recommenders may have busy schedules, so periodic reminders can help ensure that the letters are submitted on time. Express your gratitude for their assistance and reaffirm your enthusiasm for the PA program in these follow-up messages.


Choose Quality Over Quantity

It is generally more beneficial to have a few high-quality letters of recommendation than several generic ones. Focus on obtaining letters from individuals who can genuinely attest to your qualifications and potential. The depth of insight provided by a strong letter is far more valuable than having a large number of lukewarm letters.


Address Any Weaknesses Proactively

If you are aware of any weaknesses in your application, such as a lower GPA or a gap in your academic history, address these proactively with your recommenders. Share your efforts to overcome these challenges and demonstrate how they have influenced your commitment to becoming a PA. This approach allows your recommenders to address potential concerns directly and may strengthen your overall application.


Express Gratitude and Follow Up

Once your recommenders have submitted their letters, express your sincere gratitude for their support. A handwritten thank-you note or an email expressing your appreciation can go a long way in maintaining strong professional relationships. Additionally, keep your recommenders updated on the status of your application and outcomes, as they will likely be eager to hear about your progress.



Securing strong letters of recommendation is a vital component of your physician assistant school application. By carefully selecting the right recommenders, building strong relationships, providing relevant information, and giving ample notice, you can ensure that your letters of recommendation reflect your qualifications and dedication to becoming a PA. Remember to express gratitude to your recommenders and keep them informed of your application progress. By following these strategies, you will enhance your chances of standing out to PA program admissions committees and ultimately, securing a coveted spot in the physician assistant program of your dreams. For personalized guidance and support throughout the application process, consider seeking assistance from a qualified physician assistant admissions coach who can provide valuable insights and advice.

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